BY NICK MARTIN
CANBERRA — Labor for Refugees ACT was formed immediately after the 2001 federal election to give form and an organising avenue to those seeking a change in policy.
Meeting at the ACT Trades and Labour Council, the group has sought to unify those in affiliated trade unions with rank and file ALP members to build an alternative to current refugee policy.
The 2001 election loss made many ALP members realise that there needed to be a more active, grassroots approach to policy formulation in the ALP if human rights for asylum seekers were to be a policy priority. The ALP's "me-tooism" had a disastrous result for the party and undermined its basic principles.
Locally we have received great support from the ACT Trades and Labour Council, the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and local representatives in the ACT Legislative Assembly. Most importantly, ALP local branches have been vocal in support of the campaign. More than a third of branches have signed onto the model resolution. Our aims have been endorsed by the ACT ALP, and we will be pursuing them at local and national conferences.
In the ACT, the ALP received one of the biggest swings against it in the federal election because of its policy on refugees and failure to provide an alternative perspective.
The launch of Labor for Refugees' national information campaign has provided the counter to the Liberals' racism that many had hoped would come from the ALP leadership. In addition, we helped build the refugees' rights national convergence in February at Parliament House and promoted the Palm Sunday rallies. The support of the Refugee Action Collective and other progressive organisations has provided a real political impetus to the campaign and already generated policy alternatives.
With an increasingly integrated approach across all states and territories, more and more ordinary ALP members and trade unionists are becoming involved. Labor for Refugees is growing just as the national movement for refugees' rights is growing.
With continued public pressure and an increasing public awareness of the bankruptcy of the Liberals' policies our campaign will be successful in changing ALP policy, defeating the Liberals, and winning the freedom of all refugees in Australia.
[Nick Martin is convenor of ACT Labor for Refugees. For more information visit <http://www.labor4refugees.org>].
From Green Left Weekly, April 10, 2002.
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